There’s nothing I like better than a photo of a guy standing between a cucumber vine and a sprawling tomato plant:
There are a million gardening books out there, many of them on vegetable growing. There are very few sure things in life, but two sure things are DICK RAYMOND’S GARDENING YEAR and his famous and bestselling THE JOY OF GARDENING.
These are my most treasured books. I already knew how to garden as a kid, thanks to my parents, my grandfather George Fedchak, Uncle Harry Welch, and an Athens, Pennsylvania neighbor, Otto Storelli.
My parents were older than usual, so they were very much children of The Great Depression. They feared disaster at every turn, and perhaps even relished the notion, since they knew how to grow their own food, and, if push came to shove, could kill it with their bare hands, too. My mother froze and canned. We ate.
The Welch family of the late 1800’s was into the shingle-making business and the apple cider business. The Fedchaks were Eastern European farmers or, let’s say it, peasants, at least until 1910 when George moved to Sayre, Pennsylvania. There, as a laborer on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, he persisted in growing (and butchering) his own food until 1972.
Alas, GARDENING YEAR is out of print. It can still be had as a used book in good condition from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere. It is magnificent, and it is perfect for beginning gardeners, loaded with color and organized the way books are supposed to be organized.
But THE JOY OF GARDENING, from 1983, is still, unbelievably, available new. It still sells well worldwide. The advice is a bit more advanced than GARDENING YEAR. But not much. And it, too, is an absolutely beautiful book. Even if you don’t garden, it’s a great book to thumb through, cocktail in hand.
I still grow vegetables. The prior generations are gone now. But every time I pull a (damned) weed, I see my mother on the gardening stool my father made for her, tossing another weed in the bucket.
I pull, I sweat. I keep the traditions going. Somehow that’s the greatest thing that we can do.